Tomatoes Seed Sales Rocket 40% With Heritage/Heirloom Tomatoes The Most Wanted

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Tomato seed sales rocket 40% with First World War varieties the flavour of the month – but gardeners fear EU clampdown

  •     Foodies and tomato lovers tiring of buying mass-produced supermarket varieties
  •     Most popular tomato seeds include varieties introduced before WWI, like ‘Harbinger’

Sales of ‘heirloom’ British tomato seeds are soaring as foodies and tomato lovers tire of buying mass-produced supermarket varieties and turn to home-growing.

Tomato seed sales were up 40 per cent in the 2013 season according to figures from The Organic Gardening Catalogue, which has specialised in supplying seeds – some originating from before World War One – to organic gardeners for 50 years.

Some of the most popular tomato varieties driving the demand include the ‘Harbinger’ (introduced in 1910), ‘Golden Sunrise’ (1896) and ‘Ailsa Craig’ (1925) in an ever-expanding range of more than fifty colours, shapes and sizes.

The demand for more flavoursome fruit and vegetables has expanded alongside British households’ growing fussiness over their groceries and the origin of produce.

But niche tomato varieties stocked by retailers like Waitrose and M&S are often expensive and sometimes disappointing in flavour.

Michael Hedges, managing director of Surrey-based The Organic Gardening Catalogue, said: ‘Tomatoes remain the most widely-grown crop for home growers in the UK, and we’re seeing an increase in interest in the old varieties, ideally suited to home garden growing.

‘They typically have thinner skins, rich flavour and a long harvest and ripening period. It would be hard to find anything like these in the supermarket.
Continue reading “Tomatoes Seed Sales Rocket 40% With Heritage/Heirloom Tomatoes The Most Wanted”

Peter Piper Just Picked His Peppers

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So following on from my previous post on Tomatoes here’s the Pepper seeds I’ve picked as well. Last year was all F1 peppers so this year is all Heritage/Heirloom ones, as it stands I’ve got 5 Chilli Peppers and 6 Sweet Peppers. I plan to do only chilli peppers in the hydro system and sweet peppers in soil but we’ll see. I believe I read that chilli and sweet like a different PH value so if that is the case I’ll be more inclined to use the chemicals to grow the chillies.

In regards to the Hydroponic setup, it’s a drip system, a 10 pot Wilma as it’s known. It’s an expensive system to buy and run and a few harsh chemicals are used in the process of growing the plants so doesn’t really follow my sort of organic ethics. Its not something I went out and bought, it was a gift and would be a real shame not to use. I used it last year and had some really good results in my opinion, it’s also nice to have an semi automated system where you know you can say go away for a week or two and your plants are constantly being watered and fed.

One of the upsides of hydroponics is apparently it uses 90% less water than you would in a normal pot. Obviously all of the synthetic salt based nutrients I am giving them is all being taken up by the plant so there is nothing going down the drain or any chance of say “run off” into the ground. Also although the pump is wired into the mains in my situation it’s also possible to run it off of a solar panel too.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co (Chilli):
Cayenne Long Thin Pepper
Pasilla Bajio Pepper
Purple Jalapeno Pepper
Thai Red Chili Pepper

The Real Seeds Catalogue (Chilli):
Lemon Drop Hot Citrus Pepper

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co (Sweet):
Italian Pepperoncini Pepper

The Real Seeds Catalogue (Sweet):
Orange Bell Early Sweet Pepper
Amy Sweet Hungarian Wax Pepper
Slovakia Sweet Pepper
Semaroh Early Sweet Pepper

The Heritage Seed Library (Sweet):
Soror Sarek

I’ll be posting more information about each individual variety when it comes to planting them. Theirs going to be some tasty meals knocked up out of this lot, really can’t wait to try them.

Tomatoes Coming Out My Ears

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I’ll start by saying when it comes to food I love variety and as they say “variety is the spice of life” so I’ve ordered all a large selection of seeds this year for the family but that said only a single plant of each variety will be grown in the green/glass house. I’ll be giving away all the other spare plants I produce to friends (let me know if anyone is interested). I’ve mainly stuck to the small cherry/plum type this year as my Dad commented on how he liked the little sweet ones you get so thought I’d also buy a number of F1 hybrids as well this year to grow alongside the Heritage/Heirloom open pollinated type.

Thompson and Morgan:
Sweet Aperitif (F1)
Sungrape (F1)
Sungold (F1)
Suncherry Premium (F1)

Heritage Seed Library:
Pink Cherry
Small Pear Shape

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co:
Red Fig
Jujube Cherry
Wapsipinicon Peach
Blue Berries (Wild Boar Farms)

Nickys Nursery:
Garden Peach

So the one I grew last year that all the family loved was “Small Pear Shape” from the HSL so that’s one I’m doing again this year. It might well be that “Red Fig” from Bakers Creek is the same type, it certainly looks similar, I certainly won’t be disappointed if I end up with two plants the same though as they are so moreish. As silly as this might sound to some I also got “Jujube Cherry” as it looked quite similar shape to some of the “pear” tomatoes from last year, not all of them were pear shaped some looked more like a grape so thought I might end up with something similar. I want to see which of these 3 similar looking types taste the best.
I grew “Garden Peach” in 2012 and loved that too, amazing tastes and textures, hopefully it still tastes as good as it did the first time around. Alongside this I’ll be growing the “Wapsipinicon Peach”, apparently it has the same fury skin and I want to find out which tastes the best out of the two.
I loved the look of the “Blue Berries” from Wild Boar Farms, I hope the colours come through as they appear on the photo, to be honest I’m not holding my breath. Anyway I just felt I should have at least one “purple/blue” flavonoid pigments, if nothing else but for those added antioxidants known as anthocyanins.
The “Pink Cherry” from the HSL was sent as an alternative to a “Fox Cherry” I was hoping to grow, apparently it’s just as good so fingers crossed on that one, nice surprise if it does well.

Now onto the F1s, they all sound really delicious with some of them classed as the “tastiest tomatoes available” and winning taste tests etc. I’m sure they’ll all produce well with their hybrid vigour and likely have added disease resistance too. Seriously can’t wait to sample these alongside some of the older tomatoes I’ll be doing, be interesting to see how they compare on all levels. That said “yield” is very unimportant to me, I’ll be decided solely on taste really with texture a close second and plant health taken into account of course.

I really don’t have space for any more but I may also consider buying a few plug plants of “Wladecks” from “Delfland Nurseries” as I loved them last year too but can’t get seeds any longer. They are huge sized beef steak tomatoes that literally snap the truss under their own weight. If you decided to grow them too plan to support the truss somehow, it’s highly likely to break.

I’m going to start seeds off in Root Trainers as I love the root balls they produce, I may end up doing a side by side comparison with Jiffy Plugs (peat pellets) if I end up buying any. Let me know if that’s something you wish to see done?

Seed Potatos Galore

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Very pleased to bring this update to the blog, I’ve went and purchased my seed potatoes to get all ready for chitting/sprouting. Exciting stuff ahead for me and my family, I’ve got some amazing sounding and looking varieties from red to purple colouring and even some that date back several hundred years.

I’ve actually went against my original intentions which was to go with just one variety of potato that’s high in blight resistance, original plan being that the thick foliage would shade out the weeds I’m clearing/battling.

So the change of heart was on the back of me thinking it’s not worth “wasting” a year growing one variety only to find out it’s not the best taster or grows poorly in my area. That would be the least of my problems if a certain pest was prevalent this year that my particular tubers was susceptible to, end up getting hit hard when it comes to harvest.Image

So the plan moving forward is to have multiple varieties, all with something slightly different to offer so I can benefit from the biodiversity element. The Irish Potato Famine of 1840 left 1 million people dead, the cause was that they were mainly growing just one type of potato, called the “lumper”, a severe blight hit and virtually wiped out all crops. It might not be 1840 but there is lessons to be learn from these kind of events.

I’ve invested massively in Heritage varieties as I feel as though most modern common varieties are carried by supermarkets and farmers markets (the preferred option) so are easily accessed at a fair price. Also I might be able to do a bit of swapping with other allotment holders if I make a few friends along the way and it would be maybe handy and interesting if I have something different to offer

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A downside is that some of these Heritage (heirloom) varieties can lack some of the modern disease and pest resistance. Their is an argument though that what they may lack in one area they can excel at in another, specifically taste I’m hoping. I had great experience growing Heritage Tomatoes last year and was blown away by taste so want to carry on the trend for my potatoes too. It may well be I get struck with the dreaded blight this year and end up next year opting for the more modern cultivars in the future but I’ll be happier for  having tried. Generally speaking I do support preserving old varieties so they are not lost to history, in a changing climate variety is key I feel and one day it may be the case that a epidemic could hit and a certain old variety turns out to have previously unobserved resistance to it.

I’ve choosen organic tubers where possible and ordered from the “organic plants” store to show my support for the “Garden Organic” group, unfortunately they don’t have every variety I was looking for so had to shop elsewhere. Looked at other “organic” stores but it was the old tried and tested Thompson and Morgan that had every other variety I wanted in one place so I purchased the rest there as I felt it would be reducing the overall mileage they’ll travel.

In all honesty I was planning on buying several of my products from a local supplier Carrolls Heritage Potatoes but in all honestly it appeared much more expensive than most other places so I’ll have to enquirer more in the future about weights and tuber numbers etc but for now opted for online vendors. Next year I’ll get a large part of my tubers from the local Durham Organic growing club meetings but missed the date this year, more to follow on that though.

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Anyway, I’ll be talking much more on this over the coming weeks about this so for now I’ll leave it there and give you the names of varieties I’ve chosen.

Organic Plants AKA Delfland Nursaries (http://www.organicplants.co.uk):
Sarpo Mira
Red Emmalie
Salad Blue
Arran Victory
Pink Fir Apple

Thomson and Morgan (http://www.thompson-morgan.com):
Highland Red Burgundy
Shetland Black
Mayan Gold
Saxon
British Queen
Maris Peer (freebie)

Fruit Hunters Documentory

I found this quite a fascinating little documentary that explores a wide variety of fruit and the importance of biodiversity for our food security.

The title of “Fruit Hunters” is attributed to people who travel the globe looking for rare and endangered fruits in order to preserve them and maintain diversity as well as just to simply enjoy them for eating.

This also covers the issues of things like taking certain fruits for granted and some history on almost losing Bananas from disease due to only having on variety and they also touch on them trying to develop more varieties.

These food hunters speak on the “living libraries” they are creating for preservation purposes as well as bringing new fruits to people via markets etc.

Now check out part 2:

Documentary made by “The Nature of Things” for CBS, thank you.

Only ever tried an Orange Carrot? Why?

Carrot

In some regions of the world you can still naturally find white, yellow, red and purple carrots, this is the spectrum of colors carrots used to have but today in most countries carrots tend to be just orange. Why is that then?

Allegedly they are orange for entirely political reasons: in the 17th century, Dutch growers are thought to have cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange – who led the the struggle for Dutch independence – and the color stuck. A thousand years of yellow, white and purple carrot history, was wiped out in a generation.

Although some scholars doubt if orange carrots even existed prior to the 16th century, they now form the basis of most commercial cultivators around the world. Presumably crosses between Eastern (purple), Western (white, red) and perhaps wild carrots led to the formation of the orange rooted carrot sub species. Turkey is often cited as the original birthplace of the hybrids (or mutations) of the two groups.

Whatever the origins, the Long Orange Dutch carrot, first described in writing in 1721, is the forebear of the orange Horn carrot varieties so abundant nowadays. The Horn Carrot derives from the Netherlands town of Hoorn in the neighborhood of which it was presumably bred. All our modern, western carrots ultimately descend from these varieties.

In fact the different colour pigments have have different health benefits also, colours like Purple are reported to have more antioxidant effects (anthocyanins). I will post more on that soon but for now don’t just stick to what the supermarkets or veg shops are providing, create something new yourself.

So why not try something different next year, break the mold and get something you can’t just pick up somewhere. Brighten up that plate a bit and enjoy all the variety in colors on offer.

The Read Seed Catalogue may be somewhere to pick up those seeds (and support) but they are widely available now really.

Heritage Seed Potatoes

Heritage Seed Potatoes

I think we should preserve the heritage of these old heirloom potato varieties, genetic diversity could be the key to future plant disease and pest cures and in turn help towards feeding a growing population.
A source of these Heritage and Conservation Seed Potatoes is a North East of England company called Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes, great stuff. Grow something different next year, spice it up a bit, get those good old potato tastes and textures from the almost forgotten past.